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Advocate of Palestinian Development and Empowerment Dies
(Peter Gubser inspired Arabs and Americans with his humanitarian works)
By M. Scott Bortot
Staff Writer
Washington — Peter Gubser, a development leader and scholar who pioneered humanitarian relief efforts for Palestinians, died on September 2 of cancer. He was 69. For 30 years, Gubser served as president of American Near East Refugee Aid ( ) (ANERA), an organization dedicated to advancing the well-being of people in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Jordan.
William Corcoran, president of ANERA, spoke about Gubser’s commitment to the Palestinian people.
“He was a realistic man, but always had the hope that there might be some window of opportunity,” Corcoran said. “He thought that even when politics were failing us to bring peace in the region, he felt that development of individuals and families and communities was a way of advancing.”
Gubser, who served as president of ANERA until 2007, led many projects that have improved the lives of Palestinians. Two recent projects — in Gaza and the West Bank — highlight his efforts for Palestinians.
He created and raised funds for the Milk for Preschoolers Program, an initiative that feeds Gaza children enriched milk and fortified biscuits daily to battle anemia. Started in 2003, the program reaches 20,000 children between the ages of 3 and 5 at 150 preschools.
Another project envisioned by Gubser focuses on empowering students at four West Bank universities. The IT Centers of Excellence program, funded by ANERA, offers classes in information technology skills. The centers also serve as business incubators for young Palestinian entrepreneurs.
“We didn’t just build the four buildings and hand them over. We’ve been mentoring them right along,” Corcoran said. “We have an IT [information technology] specialist in the West Bank who works with these four universities to this day.”
After graduating from Yale University, Gubser studied at the American University of Beirut, where he earned a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies and Arabic in 1966. He went on to receive a doctorate in social anthropology from Oxford University in England in 1969.
From 1995 to 2003, Gubser was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Washington.
Liz Kepferle, current dean of admissions at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar, told the university newspaper, The Hoya, about Gubser’s impact on students.
“Many of professor Gubser’s students, having learned the nuts and bolts of project management in his course, went on to work for the U.N. or the World Bank, or in development-oriented NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] such as ANERA,” Kepferle said.
Gubser wrote books and research papers on development issues in the Arab world. His most recent book, Saladin: Empire and Holy War, is a new history of the 12th-century Muslim leader and statesman.
A member of the boards of the Foundation for Middle East Peace and Builders for Peace, Gubser helped found the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations ( ), an organization that fosters greater understanding of the Arab world.
John Duke Anthony, chief executive officer of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, talked about Gubser’s contributions as an academic and humanitarian.
“He was not only a great teacher, scholar and lucid writer, as well as author of several very good books on Lebanon, Jordan and Saladin,” he said. “He was also a role model as an inspirational leader, an institution builder, the longtime head of one of the world's most effective philanthropic organizations devoted to the alleviation of suffering and the provision of opportunities for those in need, as well as an indefatigable champion of the rights of Palestinians.”
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.  Web site:
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